Twins Trade Targets: Marco Scutaro
In fact, Sanchez was the first position player featured in this series, and why not? He was a perfect match for the Twins, had said he was interested in playing for them, and would almost certainly be available.
Indeed, he was available, but don't blame Bill Smith for not pulling the trigger on this one.
The Pirates received Tim Alderson from the Giants for Sanchez, and while Alderson is only the fourth best pitcher in the Giants system (big club inclusive), he's also their fourth best prospect period.
The team boasts an incredible potential rotation of Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, Alderson, and Jonathan Sanchez. On any other team, Alderson cracks the top three easily, which makes him the guy to deal: His value is higher to someone else than he is to his own team.
Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein ranked Alderson as a four-star prospect, putting him between Aaron Hicks and Danny Valencia in the Twins' system.
Is Sanchez worth either of those guys? Not in my opinion—not for the time he'd be with the team.
So Smith was simply outbid for Sanchez. Not his fault; he made the right call in the end.
Who, then, is left for the Twins to pursue if the middle infield is still their goal?
I've broken down Orlando Cabrera (the likely target, though Billy Beane reportedly wants the aforementioned Danny Valencia) and Kelly Johnson (a name not yet connected with the Twins, or anyone for that matter, which, I have to admit, surprises me a lot).
I still buy both of those names, especially O-Cab, but the rumors about the Twins looking at Marco Scutaro have persisted, so he's the next breakdown.
For the season, Scutaro is hitting a very serviceable .291/.385/.432, good for a VORP of 34.6, the best offensive mark on the Jays this season. It should be noted that his offensive numbers are depressed by his poor June, when he posted a very weak line of .229/.328/.324.
Much like Cabrera, Scutaro is having a monster July, hitting .349/.412/.523 this month, which brings up the first major difference between the two: Scutaro takes a lot of walks. In fact, Scutaro is third in the AL in drawing free passes; his addition would give the Twins three of the top 10 players in the AL in terms of walks per strikeout.
The second major difference between Cabrera and Scutaro is that, while Cabrera has a reputation for being a defensive wizard, Scutaro can actually pick it.
Though he's had a few seasons of suspect defense, Marco has greatly improved his defense over the last few seasons, posting a UZR of 7.6 at short last season and 6.5 there this season.
Over the last three seasons, Scutaro has logged 40 or more starts at shortstop, third base, and second base, which would be a great boon to the Twins, who love working their players around the diamond (see Punto, Nick and Harris, Brendan). Scutaro's best defensive position over his career has been second base, but over the last few seasons, he's been much better at short.
Adding Scutaro allows the Twins to upgrade shortstop, since Scutaro outhits Harris by a fair amount (.291/.385/.432 with an OPS-plus of 119 compared to Harris' .264/.305/.371 for an OPS-plus of 83), and would allow either Harris or Punto to lock down second base. Second base is Punto's best defensive position, which makes having his bat in the lineup, an inevitability given the managerial situation, a little more palatable.
Scutaro is the type of rental the Twins usually eschew, but for a prorated portion of the $1.1 million Scutaro is owed, and given his type-A status at the end of this season, the Twins may be willing to send a few pieces Toronto's way, reload the system with the draft picks, and hope that Scutaro can lead them to the promised land this season.
Simply put, there's a lot to like about this potential move.
First, it's the type of move that would probably placate Justin Morneau, Joe Mauer, Joe Nathan, and the rest of the veterans who so badly want the front office to make a deal. Making Mauer happy is worth losing a few minor leaguers in and of itself; getting a player like Scutaro in return is even better.
Second, the Jays have a number of interesting relievers that could be packaged to help fill the largest void the Twins currently have (oh yes, relief help is much more important than middle infield help).
Third, because Scutaro is old (33) and a free agent after the season, the Twins won't pay a premium for a player under team control the way they would have to with Kelly Johnson. Yes, they'll have to recompense J.P. Ricciardi for the loss of future draft picks, but that's a lower price, generally speaking, than trying to buy out someone's cheap or arbitration years.
Needless to say, of all the deals that have been tossed around, this is my favorite. Scutaro brings upside now and draft picks in the future. If he were to be acquired in a package with Brandon League or another of the Jays' relievers, the Twins would likely be the team to beat in the AL Central.
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